The Wicked + The Divine is easily my favorite comic coming out right now. Speaking volumes about coping with mortality, crossing the boundary of fan to artist, how mythology and godhood evolves, and the darker sides of the culture of fandom, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have already done so much more with the series in the first two arcs than a lot of comics manage to do in their entire run.
With the latest issue being #13, it only makes sense that they bring upon another point as another character meets their unfortunate fate.
Spoiler warning ahead for issue #13 and trigger warning for mentions of rape and suicide.In WicDiv #13, we finally meet the elusive Tara in an issue drawn by Tula Lotay. Tara was such a strange goddess in the Pantheon before this point. We only knew that everyone seemed to regard her with derision, calling her “Fucking Tara” most of the time. We never knew what Tara she actually was and most of what we knew about her was the time Luci quoted her saying “If you exist, you’re staring at me.”
WicDiv #13 is told from Tara’s perspective, as done in the form of a suicide note that only the reader gets to see before it is burned by Ananke. Though, you don’t know that until you get to the last few pages as Tara is crying her eyes out as she sings her final song. Lotay’s art throughout the entire issue is gorgeous, but the way she draws Tara in her final moments is heart-stopping, moving, painful, and strangely visceral.
Throughout the issue itself as it builds to its climax, we get to know Tara herself. She was a fashion student who was tall, pretty, and Southeast Asian. She was hit on by men sexually for the first time when she was 11 and had been hit with unwanted attention since then. She was performing her acoustic songs in a mask when Ananke gave her the news and she “screamed all the way down.” Where most of the other gods revel in their fame and power, Tara actively hates it, hiding behind her masks and her lavish clothes when out in public. When she declares “My music, my mask, my clothes. They’re all just ways to hide. You’re always going to stare. Stare at this, not me,” it suddenly puts that quote Luci spat out with derision in a much different light.The true tragedy of Tara though was that she was still a person with dreams at her core. She tried to use her godhood status to perform her own material to crowds, but they refused to listen. They craved the Goddess and met a poor soul with rape and death threats when she tried to show she was more than that.
After 12 issues of going “Ha ha, Fucking Tara” along with the rest of the world, there’s nothing that makes you stop and go “Oh god, I’m part of the problem” when you see that two page spread of the horrible tweets Tara received for just trying to be herself before ultimately going through with her suicide.
What was more telling though was the tweets that followed after Tara was found dead. People mourning and people still cracking jokes, never knowing her message of “Try to be kinder. You have no idea what people are going through.” It brought back memories of when Amy Winehouse died four years ago, when I was hit with immediate guilt for playing into every terrible joke people made about her and wanting to spit acid at everyone who thought referencing ‘Rehab’ was fucking hilarious.That’s the thing though. We expect so much of pop culture icons when they’re women and when they don’t live up to those standards, we as a culture start immediately tearing them down. It’s gotten so much easier to do with social media too. I can’t go down my Instagram feed without seeing someone comment to women wrestlers on their own pages about how much they hate them. People still make jokes about Amy Winehouse’s death to this day. Pop music fans are the worst when a new album doesn’t live up to rather uneven standards. This isn’t even getting into what happens if you’re a woman of color in pop culture like Tara herself was. You have to work twice as hard and you’re still going to be seen as the angry/scary minority at the end of the day.
We as a culture will spend so much time tearing down these women that we forget that they are people too with their own ambitions. And if god forbid something happens to them, there seems to be an even line of jokes and rushing to mourn their lost potential. Winehouse is the most recent example, but Britney Spears is another common example of this. We want to make fun of her for the one time she shaved her head, ignoring that it was a chance for her to have some actual agency over her life. We don’t want agency for them. We want them to dance for us and live up to impossible standards, then make terrible comments to them when they don’t, not even thinking of how it affects them.
Tara deserved much better than what she got. I would have liked to see Laura get to actually know her and see the pain she was going through. Maybe she could have realized just how much “Fucking Tara” actually hurt the woman it was directed at.
To paraphrase a song better suited to our devil in a white pantsuit, we’ll shout out “Who killed Tara?” when after all it was you and me.